Category:Wine news

Tuesday tidbits 59: Texas wine at the White House, wine packaging, iPod breathalyzer

? A big-time Texas recommendation: Lettie Teague, the executive wine editor at Food and Wine, told a California newspaper that president-elect Barack Obama needs to add some regional wine to the White House list. "As a New Yorker, I'd like to see some New York wines represented — we were a huge state for him," she said with a laugh, suggesting a sauvignon blanc or cabernet from the North Fork region or a Finger Lakes Riesling. Other picks: a Washington state merlot, "because I feel they really do that grape well," a hearty California zinfandel and "to show that he is an all-inclusive sort, I would throw in a viognier from Texas." Nicely done. Can the Wine Curmudgeon suggest the Becker, McPherson and Brennan viogniers? And maybe we should recruit Teague for DrinkLocaWine.com?

? Boxes instead of bottles: Glen Ellen and Fish Eye will replace its four-packs of 187-milliliter bottles with a more environmentally-friendly four-pack of 250-milliliter Tetra Paks.This, by itself, is not that big a deal. Glen, Ellen, for example, probably sells most of its wine in 1.5-liter bottles, and these represent just a small portion of its sales. Plus, since the packages are bigger, they ?ll cost more. But it is indicative of a trend that is apparently hear to stay. My pal John Palazzo, who is a packaging expert, discusses this here.

? Blow into your iPod, please: Attach this gizmo, called the iBreath, to the bottom of your iPod and you can tell if you ?re too drunk to drive. There ?s also a timer to remind you to check your blood alcohol level to see if it has gone down. And, believe it or not, the iBreath doubles as an FM transmitter. The cost is $79.

Tuesday tidbits 58: Wine.com top 100, Randall Grahm, wine pairing widget

? Cheap wine galore: The Wine Curmudgeon was impressed with the good taste displayed by Wine.com ?s customers. The Internet retailer released its 100 most popular wines, based on sales, and four of the top 10 cost $10 or less, including Wine Curmudgeon favorite Cristalino. The best selling wine was the $10 Chilean Veramonte cabernet sauvignon, and only two of the top 10 cost more than $15. One question, though: Why buy Cristalino and pay shipping when it ?s in most discount wine stores?

? Because one can never get too much Randall Grahm: Our old pal Dan Berger reports that the iconoclastic master of Bonny Doon is up to his usual tricks, which is good for the wine business and for those of us who care about quality and not scores. Writes Berger: ?All this internalized angst is nothing new for Grahm, who I once described as the James Joyce of wine, only to have him suggest it might be best to use the term James Juice. ?

? Wine and food: I ?m not sure if this is the be all and end all, but it is clever. The Wine Market Council has developed a wine and food pairing gizmo that lets you pick a wine and to pair with good or a food to pair with wine. It ?s still simple (pick fish, and there are only a handful of dishes), and it doesn ?t take a computer to come up with pairing chardonnay with smoked trout. But it ?s a nice start.

Tuesday tidbits 57: Special cheap wine edition

News and notes related to the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorite subject, quality, inexpensive wine:

? The market focuses on cheap wine (or, I become hip and trendy): Which, of course, is a scary thought. But some anecdotal evidence suggests that a potentially major shakeout is underway in the retail marketplace, as consumers look for less expensive wine. One major Dallas-area retailer says he can ?t move anything that costs more than $10 or $12, and even $15 wine is sitting on the shelves. Meanwhile, an executive at a well-respected importer told me ?Seems like everyone is asking for wines under $25 ?- and we don ?t have many, alas. ? I ?ll have an in-depth look at what ?s happening, as promised, after the first of the year.

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Tuesday tidbits 56: Restaurant wine lists, Aussie wine prices, the British and rose

? Finding values on restaurant lists: Anyone who doubts that the New York Times ? Eric Asimov is one of the great wine writers of his generation should read this piece on restaurant wine lists, which discusses how to find value among the over-priced and bloated lists that too many restaurants use. Writes Asimov: ?At the very least a good list needs to give bottom dwellers something to grab hold of and enjoy, that will make them feel welcomed, not just tolerated. ? That ?s a better, truer sentence than 99 percent of the wine writers of the world ? including all the famous ones — will ever write.

? Australian wine prices: How does a 30 percent drop sound? That ?s the estimate from Fosters Growers Liaison Group chairman Dennis Mills. He added that non-contracted chardonnay grapes ? that is, fruit that growers don ?t have a customer for before they harvest it — will be impossible to sell. I ?ve been following this closely, and I ?m going to make some phone calls myself. If prices collapse for Aussie wine, it will put downward pressure on wine prices in the rest of the world ? starting with cheap wine, but not limited to it.

? British women love U.S. rose: Sales of rose from California have risen 17 percent in Great Britain this year, and women have been the big audience, according to a Nielsen survey. The surge in rose sales helped the U.S. overtake France as the second-biggest wine region in the British market (behind Australia). The story doesn ?t discuss why the British have taken to rose, and doesn ?t say if rose includes white zinfandel. If it does include the latter, the numbers are even more interesting.

Tuesday tidbits 56: Direct shipping, sulfites, wine in a tube

? Direct shipping update: The Massachusetts Supreme Court struck down that state ?s direct shipping law, which will likely give the state ?s wine drinkers the chance to buy wine from any producer in the U.S. Currently, Massachusetts consumers are limited by a direct shipping law that requires out of state wineries to get permits. The state court said was in violation of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing direct shipping.

image ? Wine in a tube: Because I love stories about wine that doesn ?t come in a bottle. California ?s Four Winery has produced wine in a tube ? a 3-three liter box (the equivalent of four bottles) that looks like a cylinder. Currently, the winery only produces cabernet sauvignon, but expects to add chardonnay, merlot, and pinot grigio next year. Price is about $39.

? Wine and sulfites: This may be well be the best explanation I have ever seen for sulfites and wine. It ?s so good, in fact, that I ?m going to borrow it. Sulfites are not some evil additive that Simon Legree-like winemakers toss in to make us sick. Rather, notes Julia Timakhovich. ?Sulfites are a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation, and they are also added to wine after fermentation to prevent the growth of bacteria and make the wine "stable" [so] the taste will not change during transportation and storage, and the wine will be ageable. Pretty much all wine produced is made with added sulfites. ?

Holiday wine books

image This season ?s wine book offerings seem slimmer than past years, and especially for pretty, coffee table books. This is not necessarily a problem, since pretty, coffee table books can cost as much as a case of well-made cheap wine.

But there are a variety of worthwhile books for sale this year. Among the most interesting:

? A wine bucket ?s worth of wine guides. This category, interestingly, has picked up over the last couple of years. My favorites are Tom Stevenson ?s Wine Report 2009 ($15) and Kevin Zraly ?s American Wine Guide 2009 ($13). Stevenson includes U.S. wine regions, which is one reason why it ?s so valuable. (Full disclosure: Several people who contributed to our DrinkLocalWine.com project contributed to each book.)

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Tuesday tidbits 55: Prohibition, high-end wine demand, Vintners hall of fame

? The anniversary of repeal: Prohibition ended 75 years ago this week, a failed social experiment whose legacy is still with us. In Texas, for instance, I can ?t buy beer in the grocery store before noon on Sunday. This wire service story is a good overview of what happened and why. What is often overlooked is that Prohibition started with the best of intentions, a way to improve the life of the poor and working classes. It was not necessarily a ban imposed for moral or religious reasons, though that was part of it. And, ironically, much research seems to indicate that alcoholism actually increased between 1920 and 1933. Since alcohol was harder to find, people tended to drink more when they found it.

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